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Kitikmeot School Operations (KitSO)



The Hamlet of Kugluktuk was formerly known as Coppermine, the name of the river that flows into Coronation Gulf at this location. The English name can be traced back to an expedition explorer Samuel Hearne made in 1771 during which he searched for copper and other economic opportunities while working for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). Descended from the Thule Inuit who occupied the region, local Inuit were referred to as “Copper Eskimos” for several years because many of their tools were made from copper found in deposits along the river. John Franklin also visited the area on one of his overland journeys (1819-1822) down the Coppermine River to map the coast and find the Northwest Passage. John Richardson and George Back accompanied Franklin on this expedition and were noted for conducting their own expeditions.

Located in the westernmost part of Nunavut at the mouth of the Coppermine River, the area was jointly occupied by both the Inuit and the Dene, leading to many feuds and skirmishes between the two peoples. Bloody Falls, located near the community, was the site of a major altercation between Inuit and Dene with several recorded deaths. In 1996, a healing ceremony was conducted to resolve historic differences and grievances between the two cultures.

In more recent times, the Kugluktuk area has been the base of many expeditions and activities, including acting as a base for the ethnographic portion of the Canadian Arctic Expedition that Diamond Jenness embarked upon between 1913 and 1916. The HBC established a trading post In 1927, an Anglican mission followed in 1928, and the RCMP in 1932. A weather station and other federal facilities were established in the 1940s. Mining and oil and gas exploration were carried out in the area in the 1970s, providing training and employment opportunities. The Hamlet changed its name to Kugluktuk in 1996, referring to the nearby falls on the river (kugluk).

The Government of Nunavut (GN) Employee Orientation website offers an excellent collection of material on the general history of Nunavut, together with an overview of Inuit culture and history and an explanation of how Inuit cultural principles are being incorporated into government operations and services. We recommend exploring this site once it is available again after their restructuring, for now you can try the general GN site for information.


The Kugluktuk Heritage Visitor Centre and Museum provides historical and cultural information about Kugluktuk, and displays local arts and handicrafts. The Kitikmeot Heritage Society and the Nunavut Literacy Council are working to revitalize the use of Inuinnaqtun in daily life in the Kitikmeot region through traditional skills programs, Inuinnaqtun publications and other initiatives. The Anglican Church has had a presence in Kugluktuk since the 1920s. St. Andrew’s Anglican Church and a Catholic Mission, Christ the King, are the current places of worship in the community.

Kugluktuk lies in the area where the form of Inuit language used is Inuinnaqtun, a western dialect that uses Roman orthography instead of Inuktitut syllabics. However, English is the first language at home for 89% of the people in Kugluktuk, even if their mother tongue is another language. Only 10% say they use Inuinnaqtun regularly in the home, either as a first or second language, and 5% claim Inuinnaqtun as their mother tongue. Kugluktuk also has an unusually high proportion, for Nunavut, of people who say their mother tongue is a language other than English, French, or an Inuit language, at 19%. Many homes are multilingual. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in English and Inuinnaqtun. Inuktitut dialects vary widely across Nunavut, so if you have been speaking Inuktitut in another community, be prepared to learn dialectal differences and to have local residents correct your usage. The Inuit language (Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun), English and French are all official languages of Nunavut, so you have the right to request government services in the official language of your choice.

By Canadian standards, Kugluktuk is a fairly young community, but its median age of 24.3 years is significantly higher than that found in many other Nunavut communities. The 2011 census counted around 195 pre-school and 340 school-age children, so 37% of the population is under 18, and 5% of the population is over 65.


Kugluktuk has had a long history of economic development. The recent growth of mines in the area is simply a continuation of economic exploration dating back to Hearne. In addition to mineral and oil and gas exploration, many residents have travelled to other locations in the Northwest Territories to participate in projects in Hay River (railway construction), Yellowknife (mining and transportation) and in the Beaufort Sea (oil and gas). The economic benefits of the mining sector tend to fluctuate with the current state of the industry, but the area has great resource potential.

Kugluktuk is also one of the communities benefiting from the Government of Nunavut’s decentralization program. A number of government positions have been located in Kugluktuk, in offices such as the translation bureau, sport and recreation, and Community and Government Services. It is also home to Kitikmeot School Operations, which oversees the region’s schools. Tourism is also important to the local economy, and focuses on a number of nearby historical sites. The Nunavut territorial park of Kugluk/Bloody Falls lies 15 km outside of the Hamlet, centering on the falls (kugluk) from which the Hamlet gets its current name. Nunavut Parks also lists the Coppermine River as a heritage site, and the river was nominated in 2002 to form part of the Canadian Heritage River System. The Kugluktuk Heritage Visitor Centre and Museum provides a centre for many tourism-related services and activities, such as maps, trail routes and outfitter contacts. In addition to the wage economy provided by government, industry, and local services provision, many residents of Kugluktuk also pursue traditional subsistence hunting and fishing activities.

As in many Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Kugluktuk, and cash supplies can often become very limited. ATMs are available at the Northern Store, the Co-op and the airport, with limited cash supply. Interac and credit card services are available at most retail stores. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since postal service can often be delayed when the weather delays transportation.


Because the tundra of the Coppermine River area is close to the tree line, some boreal forest wildlife can be seen in the area, including barrenland grizzly bears, wolverines and moose, as well as tundra wildlife, such as musk oxen, caribou, foxes, wolves and Arctic hares. The Arctic ground squirrel, or hikhik as it is known locally, is a common sight. A variety of raptors, such as peregrine falcons, rough-legged hawks and bald eagles, also frequent the area. People fish the area for Arctic char and whitefish. Ringed seals are abundant in Coronation Gulf.

Further Reading: 
  • Back, George. Arctic Artist: the journal and paintings of George Back, Midshipman with Franklin, 1819-1822. Ed. C. Stuart Houston, commentary by I.S. MacLaren. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994.
  • Bennett, John & Susan Rowley, eds. Uqalurait: an oral history of Nunavut. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.
  • Dorais, Louis-Jacques. The language of the Inuit: syntax, semantics and society in the Arctic. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.
  • Issenman, Betty Kobayashi. Sinews of Survival: the living legacy of Inuit clothing. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997.
  • Jenness, Diamond: Arctic Odyssey: the diary of Diamond Jenness, 1913-1916. Hull: The Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1991.
  • MacDonald, John. The Arctic sky: Inuit astronomy, star lore and legend. Iqaluit, Nunavut & Toronto: Nunavut Research Institute and Royal Ontario Museum, 1998.
  • McGhee, Robert. The last imaginary place: a human history of the Arctic world. Toronto: Key Porter Books, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2004.
  • Morrison, David and Georges-Hébert Germain. Inuit: glimpses of an Arctic past. Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1995.
  • Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. The Inuit way: a guide to Inuit culture, Rev. ed. Ottawa: Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006.